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North Wales Women’s Football League pre-season previews – Division One

Airbus and Northop Hall will meet on the opening day. Pictured is Airbus striker Becky Lees (left) and Hall’s Rebecca Hughes. Pic: Matthew Jones @ MJ Images

North Wales Women’s League Division One

Airbus

Airbus line up before a pre-season friendly


Mari Edwards will lead Airbus Women in Division One this season.

The former Denbigh Town striker joined the Wingmakers in 2016-17 as assistant player-boss and now steps up to the manager’s role for 2019-20.

Mari, 28, has been involved in the promotion of girls and women’s football for a number of years, latterly through her role as a development officer with Flintshire Council.

“I am very honoured and excited to take on the new role as manager alongside a very experienced coach in Lee Starkey (head of coaching for Airbus),” she said.

“I am pleased to also have both Sian Smith and Heidi Scammell on the coaching team to help develop the team further. This season will be a tough, competitive but highly exciting.

“Our aim is to reach the top three this season and I am looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

Airbus have made some good signings this summer, including Jade Scott, who scored 13 goals for Prestatyn last season, striker Courteney Page from Northop Hall, defender Annest Fflur Jones and goalkeeper Shaunie Kennedy, who joins from Merseyrail Bootle.

The Wingmakers retain a dependable group of consistent performers such as Becky Lees, who has been on fire in front of goal during pre-season and skipper and midfield magician Abby Williams.

Bethel

Bethel skipper Gwenno Bolton


Last season’s joint Division One champions Bethel have experienced quite a few ins-and-outs over the summer.

Star striker, 16-year-old Catrin Evans, who banged in 18 goals in 12 appearances last term, has joined Amlwch Town, Jessica Lane has moved to Mountain Rangers and Leonie Prytherch, Catrin Hughes, Ffion Bee and Sioned Phillips have all become part of the newly-formed Llanberis team.

On the additions front, Bethel have added some youth and experience to their squad and are hoping to build on the foundations set last season.

Beca Williams has joined the seniors from the under-16s, for whom she was last year’s player of the season, while fine prospects Nel Huws, Alaw Jones, Fflur Hughes and Alaw Prys have also committed to the all-maroons.

Nel Huws won the Welsh Cup with Dei Pritchard’s Caernarfon Under-16s in 2014, Alaw Jones has Welsh Premier experience with Newcastle Emlyn and Caernarfon Town, Fflur Hughes is making a return to football, having represented Wales U-15, and Alaw Prys Hughes is back after a year out of the game.

Another really interesting signing is midfield dynamo Ceri Redman, a former Wales rugby international who has played football in this league for Denbigh Town and Bala Town.

Ben Bolton is again the manager, with Aaron Jones-Evans and Lenny Jones on board as coaches.

Squad: Sioned Hughes-Williams, Jody Cain, Anest Hâf Roberts, Kelly Jones, Erin Allen Jones, Beca Williams, Llio Henshaw, Hannah Jones, Gwenno Bolton (captain), Llio Emyr, Fflur Hughes, Alaw Jones, Nel Huws, Yasmin Williams, Katie Houghton, Ffion Williams, Erin Maloney, Ceri Redman

Bethesda Athletic

Katie Midwinter in action against Rhyl last season


After winning the Division Two title at the first attempt last season with a straight 10-game winning streak, Bethesda face a much tougher proposition in the top division.

A central figure will be captain and 2018-19 Grassroots North Wales Player of the Season Katie Midwinter, the league’s top northern-based markswoman last term with 25 goals.

It will also be a big season for young players like Angharad Evans and Shannon Jade Jones. Angharad was part of the Ynys Mon women’s squad which reached the final of the Inter-Island Games over the summer, while the pacy Shannon produced some quality goals last term and can be an integral cog in the midfield this campaign.

Many young players grew together as a team in 2018-19, improving and gaining experience.

There have been many ins and a few outs over the summer at Parc Meurig. The team has lost a few players who were important in the title win last season, but have also signed some promising youngsters capable of blending successfully into the squad.

Bethesda kick off the season at home to Rhyl, a team they met four times last term, winning three and losing one.

It should be a very interesting battle between two sides which got to know each other very well in 2019-20.

Corwen

Corwen ladies with new coach Alaw Davies-Smith (holding shirt)


Former Rhyl defender Alaw Davies-Smith is the new first-team coach at Corwen this season.

The 22-year-old reports all the players which performed so well for the club last term have remained on board.

Corwen finished second in Division Two in 2018-19, so will be having their first experience of the top flight.

Alaw said: “I am really looking forward to the season ahead, we have a good bunch of girls and we’re getting along really well as a team.

“The team has so much potential and I’m excited to see how well we get on this season.”

Denbigh Town

Lucy Morris


There have been many interesting changes at Denbigh over the summer, both on the playing and management front.

All last season’s squad have re-signed and there are a number of new recruits in the mix.

They are: Lucy Morris, Emily Morris, Zara Wood, Saskia Wynn Thomas, Kirsty Jones, Rhian Edwards, Maria Laffey, the returning Emma Roden, plus a couple of very promising younger players in Ella Jones and Sydney Van Den Broeck.

Long-serving coach John Clayton said: “The hope for the season is for the new players to integrate into the squad quickly and for Denbigh Ladies to be more consistent than last season.

“Even though we finished third last year, it was a poor season from our point of view with the commitment/availability levels, for one reason or another, not what we have come to expect.

“Hopefully the new signings plus the two new coaches, John Wood and Keiran Kendrick, can bring a freshness and new ideas to the set up.

Emily Morris (left)


“We are still working on one or two more signings to complete the squad and then hopefully we can compete better than we did last season.

“Off the field changes have also taken place with the appointment of John and Kieran as coaches and the introduction of a new chairman, Bill Dawson.

“Bill has a wealth of football knowledge and will help the club to improve activities such as internal organisation, fund raising etc.”

Bill Dawson was appointed Denbigh Town men’s manager back in 1991 and guided the team from Clwyd League Division One to the Cymru Alliance within four seasons.

The club has never operated at a lower level than Welsh Alliance since those days, so Bill will always be remembered as the man who began raising the standards which all of his successors have maintained.

Llanfair United

Llanfair Ladies in their new kit sponsored by Chris Evans Plumbing and Heating

Winners of the NEWFA and League Cups last season, as well as finishing joint top of Division One, Llanfair will again be one of the teams to beat.

United have retained all of their 2018-19 squad and introduced new recruit Ffion Barnett.

The team has a new kit sponsor in Chris Evans Plumbing and Heating.

Manager Richard Evans said: “We’re looking forward to the new season ahead; hopefully the league can learn from scenarios which occurred last season and hopefully we have a season which runs far smoother.

“We were glad to see a positive vote with the league not becoming a regionalised league.

“This way it will make the league more competitive and as a result can only benefit and improve ladies football.

“I expect myself and (co-manager) Karl Seliaerts to have more knowledge and experience of our squad; we will know exactly what is best formation wise, player wise and know more about the opposition.

“From what I see I have no doubt that our ladies will kick on again this season and hopefully get to the next level, that is what we are striving for.

“This doesn’t mean we have a right to win anything but if we put every effort in hopefully we can have some more glory like last season.

“We are a tight knit group who play to win for each other.

“We’re all about putting our efforts into training and match days, from what I see maybe some concentrate on other things, we shall see.

“It will be a tough start to the season – 7 out of 8 league games to be played away (how this works I do not know).

“On behalf of Llanfair Ladies FC we wish every team all the best for the up and coming season.

“Hopefully the talking is done on the pitch this time around.”

Northop Hall

Northop Hall midfielder Chelsea Evans (left) with captain Ali Leonard


Having lost so many key players last season from the campaign before, Northop Hall struggled somewhat, but still on their day proved capable of testing the best.

With a year’s experience as a squad behind them, the Flintshire side hope to perform better this term and finish higher up the table.

Hall have produced some decent pre-season performances, winning their recent outing against Welshpool 6-1 with goals from Chelsea Evans (2), Emily Bailey (2), Rebecca Hughes and Eleanor Thomas.

Squad:
Goalkeepers: Bethan Thomas, Abbie Holland (or defender)
Defenders: Abbie Holland, Rebecca Hughes, Ali Whitley, Tasha Kearney, Ffion Cooper, Clare Hannigan.
Midfielders: Chelsea Evans, Laura Eagles, Hannah Williams, Hannah Jones, Lydia Ward, Emily Bailey, Ellen Sharps, Sorrel Walsh, Gemma Williams, Paige Keenan.
Forwards: Haf Morgan-Read, Eleanor Thomas, Jo Bennion, Amy Davies.

Rhyl

Rhyl (white) in action against Bethesda last season


Known as Rhyl Development last season, this team now simply carries the title Rhyl following the relegation from the Welsh Premier and subsequent folding of the first team this summer.

Rhyl were promoted to Division One at the league’s AGM.

The management team are Aled Davies, supported by Iwan Davies as assistant, a father and son combination. Aled was previously men’s manager with Llandyrnog United and St Asaph.

Whilst the majority of the WPWL squad have left the Development team are now rebadged as Rhyl Women. The majority of this squad have been retained as they look to the challenge in Division One.

Wrexham

Wrexham celebrate winning the Division Two Cup last season


On their return to competitive football last season, Wrexham AFC Women showed plenty of promise in Division Two.

As well as lifting the Division Two Cup and reaching the Supplementary Cup final, the Dragons’ promotion to Division One was also confirmed at the North Wales League’s recent AGM.

Head coach Luke Wynne said: “We’re know we’re going into a tough league, against a lot of well-established teams. We’ve signed nine new players for the season and we’ve needed our pre-season to gel.

“We’re hopeful of being competitive and we’re looking to be up with the four or five best teams in Division One.”

Top-scorer from last season Samantha Palin has joined TNS, but Wrexham have brought in promising talent Oceia Thomas from Tranmere.

Luke added: “We’ve lost our top goal scorer from last season but retained the rest of our quality from last year, so we’ve built on it with the new players.”

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